Since its inception, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has been widely viewed as the most robust educational benefits program for veterans since the program began after WWII. However, there are a few veterans groups and organizations that feel change is needed in the GI Bill program.
The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA), and the Student Veterans of America (SVA) are among some of the veteran organizations seeking to change the current legislation governing Title 38 of the U.S. Code as it relates to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The main purpose of these organizations is to revise the GI Bill so it benefits a wider range of veterans making the transition from the military into higher education or other career educational programs.
On May 18th, these organizations and other invited groups conducted a roundtable discussion concerning the Post 9/11 GI Bill and their priorities for recommended changes to the legislation. One of the proposals that rose to the top of the list from a roundtable discussed changed that would “amend the legislation pertaining to the Post 9/11 GI Bill payment of licensure and certification exam fees so that rather than charging an entire month’s worth of a beneficiary’s entitlement for the cost of a credential exam (which typically is about $250), the amount of benefit charged would be prorated to the cost of the exam.”
For the VVA, there are two main priorities they feel need to be amended within the current legislation. “We are in this to make sure this generation and future generations of veterans are set up for success and so they’ll get what they earned when they made their sacrifices in serving in the military,” said Kristofer Goldsmith, Assistant Director for Policy & Government Affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America.
The first priority relates to the length of time after separation that benefits must be used or they are lost. The VVA is seeking to have the 15-year restriction eliminated. The second priority deals with providing benefits to veterans who receive administrative discharges. Regarding the 15-year use/lose stipulation of current legislation, the feeling is why should a veteran be penalized for “transitioning well”. The veteran should be able to retain their benefits for their lifetime, allowing them to use them when they need to make a change in their life or when life’s circumstances require they make a change and their benefits could provide assistance. Regarding benefits for administrative discharges, Goldsmith stated, “We’re not excusing bad behavior, but the fact is that taking away someone’s GI Bill and kicking them out with what we call a ‘bad paper discharge’ [means] they’re less likely to be employable and they’re less likely to be able to afford school at all.”
The main priority of the Military Order of The Purple Heart Association focuses on Purple Heart recipients being able to receive 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill regardless of the number of days on active duty they served, and whether or not they were discharged due to their disability.
One draft bill, H.R. 245 was introduced by Congress in late April. It included measures under the Veterans Education Equity Act, to eliminates the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) so veterans can make their education decisions based on factors other than housing benefits, such as where they attend their classes. The proposed bill passed the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate. There were other Bills that were not even brought to the House floor for a vote. Though this suggested amendment makes sense on the surface, it does not go far enough. As we previously posted in our September Blog, not only is the zip code of where the veteran is living important, but they should also receive full BAH for studying completely online.
There are two reports that are available concerning possible changes to the GI Bill you can download and review. The first is a report published two weeks ago by the American Legion and other stakeholders called The State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans. This report provides a blueprint for what they see as working for veterans and what needs to be improved.
The second report, published by the SVA discusses the findings of their long-term research project, NVEST, or National Veterans Education Success Tracker, completed in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse and the Veterans Administration. The study looked at modern student veteran’s academic progress and completion rates in order to demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI) of th GI Bill for all types of veterans.
Whether or not you are still serving, about to make the transition from the military back to civilian life, or you have already made the transition, the bottom line is this; these are YOUR benefits. Learn about them, understand them, and get involved if you feel things need to be changed. You don’t need to join a service organization to have a voice. You have your own voice. Reach out to your elected officials and let them know what you think needs to be done regarding your benefits.